Monday, September 26, 2011

Noah's first wedding

When I go to post stuff on Craigslist, I always get distracted by old pictures and so it takes much longer to get everything posted. Noah went to his first wedding recently (though he went to three before he was born but he was much more portable then.)

Here's some proof of how big Noah got...

Noah was so small and fat once.

And so immobile

But he still made it into our bed, somehow.

Hanging with his peeps

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bare Rooms

In honour of the fact I'm going to have to write a dissertation consistently using South African spelling, I thought I'd better start now.

Noah has suddenly started talking with a vengeance. He's started to copy everything we say. Which means I need to stop calling him Tiny Evil Monster. I suppose I should never have said that in the first place. Oh well...  He can now say Baaftime (bath time) and foot, in addition to his favourite words, Cheese and Eug (Which sound the same, but it's like Chinese, you know the meaning from the context). He woke up this morning, climbed over Eug to get to me, and proceeded to talk to me about his eye and his foot. Riveting.

I haven't known what to write recently, as I have a ton of posts scheduled but they seem a little contrived for the moment that we're in. We've almost emptied two (of 6, including the kitchen and bathroom) rooms of stuff, and we find ourselves sitting on the floor more. You can check out our ridiculously long list of stuff here.  It just keeps growing.

I go through different stages with our upcoming move: I'm simultaneously very happy and quite sad. Emigrating/immigrating feels very different with a family. It can be quite grueling to go through waves of change, but a friend had a helpful word- that Eug and I are on a roller coaster but we're just on for the ride, we're not doing any real work. And in good moments, that's what it feels like for us. So, more soon. Once we're in South Africa, it'll be all about solar panels, granadillas, lemon trees, pomegranate trees, and figuring out how to keep our house together.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Our little Genius (Noah)

Noah is starting to talk and he responds to commands... I mean, requests.

He can say the following:

  • Eug
  • Cheese (sometimes hard to distinguish from "Eug")
  • Mama (food, mom)
  • Owl
  • Lion 
  • Grrrr

He responds to the following:

  • Noah, can you go and throw that in the trash? (He will go outside to the balcony, where we have our trash can, and throw stuff away)
  • Oh, you're upset I'm not with you right this second?  I have to go and pee. Want to come and watch me pee and flush the toilet? (He does.)
  • Here's a rag. Clean up your pee. (He does.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Your Thoughts on Downloading Movies or TV Shows

Over at The Frugal Girl, Kristen recently wrote about honesty and frugality. This article made me think because I agree with the sentiment that if God provides for all our needs, we can be super duper honest without worrying about provision.

I personally don't download illegally, because I have an awesome husband. I'm keen [to learn] to be honest, but downloading movies or shows online is where I haven't felt much conviction up to now.  Hulu means we have plenty to watch legally without having a TV, and Redbox has made renting movies really easy and cheap ($1). But as we move to South Africa, I'm afraid that our options will dwindle: no Hulu, no DVD player (aaah, the skinny MacAir), no TV (and we don't want a TV because I lack self-control). But the occasional movie or TV show is something I really look forward to.

How have you dealt with illegal downloading? Am I destined to become inadvertently more hippy crunchy and not watch anything ever? South Africans, is there a service where you can pay to download movies or TV shows legally? Should we have stayed in Boston one more month so that we'd get to watch more episodes of Modern Family? A Netflix subscriptions wouldn't work in South Africa, right?

As you can tell, I'm thinking about all the important things with our move.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Regular Scheduled Posting

Hi everyone,

I'm going to still be posting over the next couple of months, but it won't be as regularly as it has been. We're going through a really busy season on all fronts- work, home, family- so I'll check in as often as I can about interesting things, like what I had for breakfast. Guest posts continue to be welcome!

Thanks very much for reading,

In the meantime, watch out! Noah is watching you...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Going Green But Getting Nowhere?

I just read this depressing op-ed in the New York Times. Or perhaps there is the silver green lining of planetary socialism? I'm not sure we should be flying.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Breastfeeding at 16 Months

I didn't expect I'd still be breastfeeding at this point. It all started when someone told me that the WHO recommended two years of breastfeeding, which changed my reference point. I'm all about international standards, even though I like to feel superior to large multinationals. Anyway, so my resident hippy friends were surprised, I went back to fact check, and WHO recommends no such thing. The wording is hedgy. Right? Or it's unintentional ambiguity? Either way, I'm still breastfeeding. Quite a lot.

My position: On the one hand, breastfeeding is great for babies. On the other hand, if it's past a year and it's not great for moms any more, it's time to stop. But I'm usually out of touch with my feelings, so I have no idea if I like it or not. I am sick and tired of nursing bras and the fact that pretty much everyone in Boston (and several hundred in South Africa, Korea, and Mexico) has seen my breasts. But I like that it stops Noah screaming. I like that he relaxes when I get home from work. I like that I don't have to run after him shouting "no" for a little while. Or run away screaming because he's got incredibly accurate with his little spray bottle. My house doesn't sound zen, does it? Well IT IS. OK?? IT IS.

Noah doesn't talk, and while he's pretty good at making his feelings known, it feels like part of breastfeeding is communicating. There's also the advantage of having a pre-verbal child in that he hasn't been able to name my breasts or anything creepy like that. Though maybe if he did I'd find it cute. Stranger things have happened the past 16 months.

So here's the current plan. Breastfeed until we reach South Africa-- it greatly simplifies travel not to buy milk or stress too much about water safety (Noah just won't drink the water if when we have concerns). Then, move him into His Own Room. And be Big. Or not.

He IS night-weaned, which has helped a lot with Eug and my sleep.  I wasn't sure how we would do that, given that he sleeps on a mattress right next to our mattress, and just comes and gets what he needs when he needs it. It turned out he was ready. One night of sad pointing at his mouth sleepily, and he was more or less fine with the new order.

I'm learning to treat Noah as an actual person, not a puppy I need to train. Which is surprisingly hard. Anyone else surprised by how hard that is? Every time I read a parenting book, I feel like a puppy trainer again: babies work like this, so you need to do this to get them to do that. Sometimes the books help me understand his developmental stage, which is very helpful. But trying to get Noah to be a certain way so that he fits the mould of good child, and I of good parent, is doomed.

Anyway, so I've been finding the prayer "can I be the best parent to this child?" helpful, because in the end I don't have to be a great parent in general, I just have to do right by Noah. With supernatural help, and hopefully some forgiveness from Noah later on.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Call for Guest Posts

I've been writing posts on  a regular schedule the past few months and it's been wonderful. I write quite a bit, and the blog readership has grown in the past few months. I'd like very much for you to keep reading-- and have regularly scheduled posts to read--but I would also like to step back while I'm traveling.

So here's my plea for guest posts. I want to invite (*beg*) you to share posts (you can send to concrete gardenerblog@gmail), including posts you've already published on your own blogs. I'd love to connect readers of the blog to one another. Some of you already know each other, but others you don't know are hoping for really similar things, and the blog is small enough that we can connect meaningfully. It doesn't need to be long or deep.

Some ideas for posts:
1) Recipes
2) Wonderful things you've tried while repurposing, recycling or reducing trash.
3) Your experience with Worm Bins
4) Your take on Media Fasts
5) Things you're excited for in the short term, medium term, or long term.
6) A look at a part of your house or garden you love.
7) Your take on easy vs. more difficult life changes towards sustainability.
8) Your thoughts on giving-- internationally or locally.
9) Your thoughts on sustainability or work in the context of where you're living. We have readers living in the U.S., UK, SA, Australia, Hong Kong, Romania, Italy, France, Germany, Iran, and Israel, among others. Wherever you are, your context is really interesting to other people.
10) Another post that you'd be excited to have up on Concrete Gardener.
11) Uhh, anything.
12) I have a very low bar.

Please could you submit guest posts by 10/1/2011, so I can schedule them and let you know when they'll post. I'd love to hear your stories-- don't feel your story has to fit a certain mould-- stories reach and impact people in a million different ways.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Our Travel Itinerary

Hi everyone,

If you're around these places at these times, we'd love to see you! Here's our travel itinerary for the next few months:

Boston: Now-October 12
Myrtle Beach: October 12-15
Boston: October 16-October 31
Sedona, Arizona: November 1 -- November 6
Atlanta, Georgia: November 7
Milan, Italy: November 8- 17
Genoa, Italy: briefly, unless you'll be there.
Barcelona, Spain: November 19th
Cadiz, Spain: November 21st
Santa Cruz, Canary Islands: November 23rd
Dakar, Senegal: November 26th
Walvis Bay, Namibia: December 4th

Then Cape Town, for the indefinite future. Particularly in Dakar and Walvis Bay (but definitely in the other places, also!), we'd love to see friends and friends of friends. This is all new for us.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Grace for the Aspiring No Waste Hippy, and Enjoying Boston

A while ago I wrote about grace for the aspiring hippy parent and I've recently been experiencing grace for the aspiring no-waste hippy. I write as someone who is generally in a hurry and goal-driven, I've tended to favour quantity of activity over quality.

Sometimes I've interpreted slowing down as focusing exclusively on key parts of my life (Noah, Eug, some bits of my work), and cutting everything else (fun encounters with friends, other commitments) out. But I realized that just played into my natural tendency to be more introverted and want to really get stuff done. It feels more valuable to slow down on things like making sure the budget is perfect, cleaning and even certain kinds of cooking (the very time-consuming kind), to make more space for hanging out.

Together with this sense of slowing down, I've again been experiencing a measure of grace about throwing things away. Our worm bin is no longer (the worms died this winter) and I decided not to start a new one, in what felt like the short space of time between living here in Boston and moving to Cape Town. In food scraps, it's seems like a much longer space of time.

I'd been concerned about throwing things away because I had a sense of my worth or authenticity being measured by how much I "walk the talk". And I put a lot of weight on authenticity. But my worth (and yours, obviously), is much more solid and stable-- it just is.  Whether I'm authentic or not, and whether I'm successful or not.

My experience of grace is all tied up with my faith, which is not something I want to push on you because I haven't really yet figured out how to talk about it well.  But Grace has given me some space to try things without worrying about really arriving. 

Now, when it comes to waste or no-waste, I've been encouraged by the idea that my task is much bigger than  just throwing or not throwing over the immediate two month period. My task is to enthusiastically do stuff that builds a lifetime of (hopefully enjoyable) habits. All of the things I try out I have a kind of nerdy enthusiasm for that usually makes me giddy with excitement. Did I tell you how amazing it is to wash your face with nutmeg?

One of my favourite songs is Sawa Sawa by Eric Wainaina, a Berklee grad and a Kenyan artist:
The song refers to Moses reaching his staff across the sea, and it parting before him. He stretched as far as he could, and then the miraculous took over.  May that be true.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Today I'm Becoming a U.S. Citizen

I'm becoming a U.S. citizen just a few weeks before we begin to travel-- just enough time to get the blue passport.

I remain South African as I get U.S. citizenship; there's a tinge of sadness and resignation before the practical part of me takes over. Practical not only for the perks of the passport but because I would be essentially unable to return to the U.S.-- to Eugene's family-- if I gave up my permanent residency without first getting citizenship. I see issues of passports and borders as a kind of international apartheid, our governments are insisting that our citizens are more important than others, because they don't vote or pay taxes alongside us. While I have no practical solution to offer, I just wanted to name the problem.

The shape of international borders are shaping South African identity, too. Many South Africans-- particularly white South Africans-- of my generation have left South Africa for the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. We're displaced, because we're not sure how to value our South African identity, because job opportunities are limited, or crime is a concern, educational opportunities come up overseas, we're sick of South African bureaucracy, or it is just really interesting to explore the world.

Twelve years ago, our high-school in Wales would heatedly discuss the U.S: It was too big, too self-centered, too consumerist, and seemed to believe that Might Makes Right. Yet many of us also came over to the U.S. after high school because it also has arguably the best tertiary institutions in the world. As I get the privileges of being a U.S. citizen, I want to engage criticism as a citizen, not just as an observer.

I've been here about nine years, all spent in the Boston area. And I've been hugely blessed. I have gone from a teenager to a wife and mom [and professional?]. But I didn't know to weigh my education against the value of fundamentally changing my identity. I am, and have been for a while, in a grey-zone. I think I'm super South Africa, yet people at home usually ask where I'm from. As do Bostonians.

Noah is the first person in 4 generations in our family to be born in the U.S.. Eug's mom is from Korea, and received U.S. citizenship in Hawaii after marrying Eug's dad. Eugene, Eug's dad, and grandfather were "Americans" born and raised in Korea. I find it remarkable that, after a few years of being married to a U.S. citizen-- who lived the first eighteen years of his life outside the U.S.-- I am allowed to "Be American". I can actually participate in civil society [and be heard?] despite being a vocal critic, not paying much tax, and not living a very typically American life.

As I think back on the biggest things that have been great about my time in the U.S., I realize they're not location-specific-- they are things I have experienced in many places I have been, and hopefully will experience in many places I have not yet seen. Caring people, ideas, and a spirit of innovation. Here's to citizenship!